leverage

Through a Dangerous Door

photo shows a rusty key in a rusty keyhole on a wooden door

Life in the 21st century is more connected and accessible than ever before. The Internet has brought whole new worlds of opportunity that would have been all but unimaginable before.

New opportunities have also created new pitfalls. Online stockbrokers have opened new doors for small-time traders, racing to cut commissions and expand access to trading instruments—even ever riskier ones.

Traditionally, trading features such as derivatives and margin trading were reserved for experienced investors who had money to lose. New online trading platforms have been pushing down the barriers to entry, allowing traders with just a few thousand dollars to their name to make heavily-leveraged speculative bets.

Our investment philosophy centers on traditional equity investing. We believe in owning pieces of real companies that have physical property and actual products. This provides no guarantees for us; equity investments are considered volatile, and they risk loss if a company disappears from the map.

Even so, these risks are small potatoes compared to what investors may get themselves into when they start playing around with complicated investment vehicles. Derivative investments can very easily be wiped out, and margin traders may find themselves owing more money than they put in to begin with. Traders beware!

At some point, it seems frankly irresponsible to turn inexperienced traders loose with such dangerous financial instruments. (In June, tragedy followed when a young trader misread his online trading statement and thought he was $700,000 in debt.) Online platforms have opened some doors that would have been best left closed.

Our goal here at 228Main.com is to make investing more accessible, more transparent, and more understandable for our clients. Part of that mission is making sure that we are not steering clients into inappropriate investments, a protection that do-it-yourselfers trading online lack.

We do not believe our role as advisors is to play “high priest” and tell you that we cannot be bothered to explain things to laypeople: we want to lay everything out on the table and make sure that our clients understand what they are getting into.

Clients, if you have any questions or concerns please call or email us.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Stock investing includes risks, including fluctuating prices and loss of principal.


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When the Tide Goes Out

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / RobGooch

A lot of money talk uses words that evoke water: liquidity, a wave of buying or selling, money sloshing around. We have described large sums of money going into a particular sector as a tsunami.

The extreme actions taken by central banks around the world, instead of goosing economic activity, have actually caused people to become more cautious, spend less, and save more money. The primary effect has been a huge increase in demand for supposedly safe bonds and other fixed income investments.

In our lifetimes, there have been several investment manias that featured large sums of money pouring into a single sector or type of asset. The real estate boom of the early 2000’s is fresh in our minds. The technology and growth stock boom of the late 1990’s grew into a classic bubble.

The biggest financial tsunami in history is the one we are in right now: the rush into bonds. Bloomberg recently reported on the International Monetary Fund’s concern over the global $152 trillion debt pile. The key for us is to understand how this happened: people and institutions demanded bonds in unprecedented quantities. Interest rates reached extremely low levels as the tsunami of money flooded the fixed income markets.

The market will supply whatever is demanded. Companies that didn’t need money borrowed, simply to lock up financing for years or decades ahead at the most favorable prices in history. Some consumers are taking on mortgage debt at the lowest interest rates ever just because they can. Governments around the world see little cost to borrow, so finance their deficits.

The global debt pile is like a coin with another side. That other side is the unparalleled tsunami of money into bonds and fixed income. Investors who believed they were being prudent have ramped up their holdings in the supposedly safe kinds of investments.

Some say you cannot spot a bubble when it is happening. We disagree. What cannot be known is when the bubble pops. To get back to our water words, we can’t know when the tide will go back out.

We believe that bonds will be punished severely in price when the tide goes out. There will be collateral damage to bond substitutes and other income investments. And other assets may rise in price, as money returns from the bond bubble and goes back into other, now-neglected sectors. Peril and opportunity go together.

This issue is the key to the investment markets for the next few years. We know that opportunities and threats are always present, and you know we’ll be working hard to sort out which is which. If you have questions about how this applies to your situation, please write or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.

Because of their narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.